by Ron Bernthal
Founded on the West Bank of Ontario’s Niagara River, on the south shore of Lake Ontario, by Loyalists who fled to Canada following the Revolutionary War, the small village of Newark, as it was known then, prospered until 1812, when it was burned to the ground by American troops during the Battle of 1812.
Rebuilt following the war, Niagara-on-the-Lake became a small, but prosperous, ship building center, where lovely Victorian homes, theatres, wineries, parks, and fertile farmland drew many visitors from nearby Niagara Falls, who loved the town’s quiet streets and cultural ambience.
The town looks very much like it did in the 1800′s, with small shops lining Queen Street, and a grid system of small residential streets that extend out from the town. About two hundred bed and breakfast facilities are within the borders of Niagara-on-the-Lake, many are private homes converted to B&B’s on a seasonal basis, while others are year-round commercial properties.
I stayed at the Queens Landing, a beautiful Georgian-style, 142-room brick hotel built in 1990, although it certainly has the “look” of a much older building, and I mean that in the most complimentary way. Queens Landing is one of four properties in the area that belong to Vintage Hotels, but while the other three (Pillar and Post, Prince of Wales, Moffat Inn) are historic buildings located close to the town center, Queens Landing is slightly further from the center, but still within walking distance. I chose the property because of its proximity to the Lake Ontario, the Niagara River, and a boating marina, which seems to be called Niagara-on-the-Lake Harbour. Everything outside was quiet and somewhat desolate looking in the middle of January, but offered a nice view and sense of place. The hotel’s interior, with its marble flooring, sweeping staircase, and colorful murals was, yes, all relatively new and faux-Georgian, but attractive nonetheless.
My room at Queens Landing was large and quite comfortable, with earth-toned furnishings, King bed, large work desk, plush reading chair, gas fireplace, and a view of the marina docks. All the high-end amenities of a deluxe property are provided, including hypoallergenic duvets, 2-inch mattress pads, and 300-thread-count sheets. A daily newspaper was left outside the door in the morning, and turn down service included a rose placed on the bed each night. A 37-inch flat screen TV carried both Canadian and American stations, and a small fee applied for high speed wireless internet access.
The restaurant’s Tiara dining room is one of the nicest looking hotel restaurants I have seen, situated in a wonderfully designed room with a large, curved wall of windows overlooking the garden patio and harbour beyond. The property, although busy with weddings and private social functions year-round, seems to be geared to the business traveler, with a huge ballroom and a full array of high-tech meeting rooms. The hotel maintains a small fitness center, but not an in-house spa. The two best spas in the region, however, are available to guests at Vintage Hotels’ sister properties, the Prince of Wales (Secret Garden Spa) and the 13,000 square-foot 100 Fountain Spa at the Pillar and Post. Although I did not get a chance to use the spa facilities during my visit, the indoor/outdoor hot springs area, and the heated outdoor pool, at 100 Fountain Spa is reason enough to return.
Queens Landing offers several spa, culinary, and romance, packages, as well as programs that include tickets to popular annual events, including the well known Shaw Festival and the Niagara Icewine Festival. A dozen wineries are located just outside of town, and the city of Niagara Falls, Ontario, with the spectacular waterfalls and nearby casinos, is an easy 20-minute drive.
155 Byron Street
PO Box 1180
Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON L0S1J0
Tel: 905-468-2195/ 888-669-5566
2201 St. David’s Road, Campbell East
P.O. Box 1042
Thorold ON L2V 4T7
Tel: 905- 984-3626/ 800-263-2988
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